Well, I'm approaching the final week of my second chapbook's advance sales period. Quick Draw: Poems from a Soldier's Wife is available now through the website for Finishing Line Press, a great publisher and sponsor of the New Women's Voices contest. Just click on Bookstore and look me up by name or title. Or, here's the direct link to buy. Here's a picture of the cover, which Laura Ben-Amots made beautiful with her charcoal artwork, and Ryan W. Bradley made organized with his skill for design:
If I can't take time on my own blog to reflect on the process of writing this book, I don't know where I can. This book has taken about six years to write. A long while, and not just because it was emotionally difficult for me to shape the content and message of each piece, but because Tom has been going to war since 2006, and before that, he was constantly training. I met Tom when he was an ROTC student at Seattle University; I was an undergrad studying English and Theatre. We dated, I think, because we initially saw each other as a challenge. There was something electric in our debates, our dinner dates, but I honestly don't think we planned, at least at first, on getting married. We were too different. I was an adamant pacifist and Tom was at the top of his class.
I don't think either of us has managed to feel like we've been sufficiently challenged, that one of us has won, that the dance is over - and yes, Tom and I are quietly competitive. Well, I am. Tom, to this day, has to be on everybody's team on "game night" to avoid outbursts and accusations. Maybe we're still playing to win? Either way, the game looks like one of perpetual motion; we've grown alike and more different than ever, and when I fight I want Tom by my side and across the field at the same time. I've never been so subtly spellbound by someone else's opinions.
We were married for two months before Tom left for a year of training in Georgia. I finished my degree in Seattle, and in 2005 we moved to Alaska. In 2006, Tom deployed to Iraq and I flew to Vancouver, Washington, to "wait it out" and live with my sister. It was in her small house on Daniels Street that I wrote my first poem inspired by Tom's work, and shortly afterward it was published in an issue of Calyx. Tom's career was still a thorn in my side and I didn't see any other way to deal with the violence overseas besides conditioning my anger and loneliness. It wasn't until I was about a year into my MFA degree at Pacific University, in 2008, that I began to notice what had become a stockpile of war poems in my files. Poetry was not a coping mechanism for me, but it had definitely made itself known as a part of my civilian life.
In a ballroom in Washington DC, two years ago, when I heard Kay Ryan describe poetry by saying, "It's not therapy. It's not one of the healing arts. It's poetry. It's savage," the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, the feeling you get when half your poems back home suddenly stand up off their pages and walk out of your empty house. Poetry is not my therapy. But it has become something that is, to me, worth collecting and communicating with.
I compiled Quick Draw mostly while I was living in Georgia. The title poem comes from my hearing about an event that took place not long before I moved from the south to the dry desert of Colorado. Living in military towns across the U.S. has taught me that people are always doing something worth observing. (It may not be worth a poem, but the act of observing and listening should be enough.)
Today, I'm preparing to pack up my house and pets and move to New York on my own, all while Tom lives on roasted goat and PowerBars 7400 miles away. I'm starting my PhD in English this fall at Binghamton University, and Tom will join me shortly after he returns to Colorado and finishes his assignment there, safe, and in one piece, characteristically feisty and magnetic. Quick Draw is officially released August 10th and will ship to those who have ordered copies, and tomorrow night, the 8th, I'll give my last reading in Colorado Springs at the Business of Art Center. I'll continue to write poems about war because I can't seem to stop.
The book is dedicated, naturally, to Tom. Play to win, dude. I miss you.
I've been lucky enough to have some admirable writers read my work, and I'd like to share one of these blurbs. Robert Peake, a colleague of mine from the Pacific University MFA program, writes:
Through a masterful range of impressions--sometimes nutty, harrowing, poignant, and always fresh--Abby Murray gives voice to a timeless and under-represented group in wartime literature: those left behind when soldiers go off to battle. This collection renders, through details at once intimate and universal, an important part of the picture about the human effect of war.
Thank you, Robert. Thank you to everyone who's planned on picking up a copy of Quick Draw. Welcome to the deployment.